Jeff Mattson: Living (and working) the good life

Jeff Mattson has some good — and possibly surprising — news for retirees.

“It is extremely easy for a retired person to find a job if they want a job,” said the 62-year-old retired letter carrier. “I had no trouble.”

In fact, Mattson had no trouble finding two jobs.

He retired from the U.S. Postal Service last August but he felt aimless and bored hanging around the house. So Mattson went to the golf course — not to golf, but to apply for work.

Now twice a week, rain or shine, he arrives at Daytona Country Club at 5:30 a.m. and puts in six hours of mowing. And many evenings he tends bar at Target Center, his schedule changing depending on what shifts he selects.

Mattson found that getting those jobs was about as easy as applying for them, though it probably helped that he had experience in both areas. He mowed a golf course as a kid, is an avid golfer, and genuinely enjoys mowing his 2.5-acre yard in Dayton. His last bartending job was 35 years ago, but the only real difference now is the touch-screen registers.

Mattson’s experience has been good, with just one caveat: The most plentiful jobs don’t necessarily pay well. He earns $10 an hour for mowing and a little over that, including tips, for bartending.

But Mattson, who has a pension from the Postal Service, is content with the pay. He collects Social Security and wants to avoid exceeding the limits on extra earned income ($15,720 this year) above which his benefits would be reduced.

Besides, both of his jobs come with cool perks. He golfs for free at the course, and he can invite three friends and, for $10 apiece, get 18 holes and a cart. So he plays about twice a week, far more than if he had to pay his usual $40 per round.

“I don’t even consider it work,” he said. “It’s like I get to show up, make $60 or $70, and play golf for free.”

At Target Center, he can pick his shifts based on what sporting events or world-famous musical artists he wants to supply the soundtrack to his shift. He has heard, if not actually seen, the Lynx and the Timberwolves, Paul McCartney (twice), the Who, Mackle­more and Andrea Bocelli.

He even enjoys the five-block walk from the arena to where he parks his car. “I feel like I’m part of the fabric of downtown,” he said.

Kathy Heuer: Back in the game after a layoff

Kathy Heuer was also surprised how quickly she was able to find a job at 63.

That was in 2013, when Heuer abruptly lost a longtime position as library director at the College of Visual Arts in St. Paul. The college closed, but Heuer was not at all ready to stop working.

“I actually very much love working and I really couldn’t see myself just pulling the plug to retirement,” said Heuer, who lives in St. Paul. “A long weekend is really very boring for me.”

She turned to her local WorkForce Center, a statewide system of training and other services for job seekers. “I spent a couple of months basically taking any possible WorkForce Center class in anything.”

So when she saw an ad for a job that sounded good, Heuer was ready. She revamped her résumé and cover letter on a Sunday, submitted them that Monday, got a call on Tuesday, had a phone interview on Thursday, went in for face-to-face interviews the following Monday and Wednesday, “and by Thursday I was offered the job.” She still has it, as data management specialist for the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging.

Although Heuer considers her quick experience extraordinary, there’s evidence that, as the labor market tightens, organizations are increasingly open to employing older workers. With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 each day and many of them retiring, the number of available employees is shrinking; some industries are encountering labor shortages.

Heuer loves her work, likes her co-workers, has good benefits and likes earning money to travel.

Without a job, “I would be bored silly,” she said.

Tom Hyder: Seeking (and finding) something more

When he retired three years ago, Tom Hyder was feeling burnt out, particularly with the 45-minute commute each way.

But Hyder’s job had been directing Vital Aging Network, a nonprofit organization that helps people find out what they want to do after they retire. So he was knowledgeable about preparing for life after retirement.

He volunteered for a couple of years with Minnesota Network of Hospice and Palliative Care and with Hennepin County’s Master Gardener Program. Eventually, he found he wanted something more.

“I started getting that itch of wanting to get involved again in social work, in working on aging and nonprofit work,” said Hyder, who is 65 and lives in Minneapolis. “I realized I really did miss the work.”

He wanted to work part time and from home. So he started networking. Soon he was contacted by the Minnesota Gerontological Society, which was looking for a part-time executive director who could work from home.

Perfect. He’s been doing it ever since.

“Don’t get me wrong, the extra money’s nice, but I am on Social Security and have a previous pension, and so it wasn’t that I ‘had’ to work for financial reasons,” Hyder said. “It’s that feeling of engagement, it’s feeling like I’m doing something really important and it’s being active and meeting new people, new challenges, new endeavors and also helps to satisfy my creative spark.”

He highly recommends that people who are looking for post-retirement employment focus on networking, perhaps through volunteer work that lets them try new things and meet new people.

“There are so many myths about aging,” Hyder said. “We’re really reaching our prime in terms of our life experience and ability.”

Bob Roepke: Staying involved in the community

Bob Roepke was also in a good position to network when he retired 12 years ago from 3M Co. after 35 years. During that time he’d been closely involved with the city government of his hometown of Chaska, including an 18-year stint as mayor.

Roepke, just 57, still had plenty of energy and ambition. “I knew I wanted to stay connected. I knew I wanted to continue to contribute.”

He spent some time as a paid consultant for local companies. Then in 2008, his friend Dave Pokorney retired as Chaska city administrator. The two decided to work together on projects to help small towns in Minnesota.

“We’d go out and talk to small towns and find out what their needs are. Invariably they said, ‘We need senior housing.’ ”

So Roepke and Pokorney formed the Community Asset Foundation, a nonprofit that works with the Good Samaritan Society to provide the housing.

“The foundation finances senior housing projects, most of them are assisted living, and we get ’em built, get ’em financed, and the society operates them for us in these small towns,” Roepke said.

They’re working on their fifth one now.

“It’s been a great thing,” Roepke said. “You know you want to stay involved — at least I did. I was so engaged when I was with the city and with 3M, I just didn’t want to retire.”